Oct 16, 2013
Leadership styles affect us all. The Mideast conflict has raised questions about the inability of world leaders to resolve the crisis without violence. In this country, discussion of strong leadership has further expanded as it affects matters of debt, spending, and health care – all burning issues.
Leadership styles come in different guises. Tyrants wield power and make decisions without opposition. CEOs may delegate, while others micro-manage it. Weak helmsmen fear initiative and creativity. When a political leader shows an inability or unwillingness to limit self-absorption, self-admiration, and self-praise, his style is narcissistic. He abuses his office through unyielding arrogance and an egotism that seeks power for its own sake. His drive for prestige in addition to his drive for power over others will ultimately bring him down, especially if this selfish vision overshadows the pressing needs of his country and its people. Instead of using his power with people to unite, he divides, pitting one group against another hoping to exercise power over them.
The collaborative or democratic style of leadership engages as many viewpoints as possible in contributing to a final decision. Lincoln chose this form of leadership, as Doris Kearns Goodwin reveals in A Team of Rivals.
Winston Churchill is still considered the greatest leader of the twentieth century. On becoming Prime Minister of Britain in 1940 during World War II, he spoke of hardship: “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat.” It was not what his fellow countrymen wanted to hear; it was what they needed to hear. Who of us is not familiar with his “Finest Hour” speech: “Let us bear ourselves, so that if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, ‘This was their finest hour.’” And who can forget his praise of his Air Force: “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.” Churchill exercised his power with purpose and principle.